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Harold Price, 95; Executive Funded Business Education

Times Staff Writer

Harold Price, a businessman and philanthropist who built an empire on doughnuts and Popsicles, then used much of his fortune to teach others how to start their own successful businesses, died Jan. 27 at his Beverly Hills home after a series of strokes. He was 95.

Price endowed programs to advance the theory and practice of entrepreneurship at major universities across the country, including the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

He often spoke to students there and encouraged them to obtain practical business experience, which he liked to call “collisions with reality.”

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“He didn’t think just an academic education was enough to be a good businessman. He believed a strong professional education must be buttressed by a good solid introduction to reality,” Alfred E. Osborne, senior associate dean at the Anderson School who knew Price for 20 years, told The Times on Thursday.

By funding programs at leading schools such as UCLA, New York University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Price “was at the forefront of revolutionizing entrepreneurial education in graduate management schools,” Osborne said.

After graduating from the Wharton School in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Price, a New York City native, went to work for his father, Louis, who was a co-founder of Joe Lowe Corp., a bakery and ice cream supply business. Lowe made the Popsicle famous after buying the rights to the frozen dessert in 1925 from its inventor, Frank Epperson of San Francisco.

Price loved to tell a story about his first day on the job. “He said his father was so proud of him that he had a special office for him, a big door with a plaque that had his name on it,” his granddaughter, Bonnie Vitti, recalled. “It was a broom closet. His father said, ‘Get to work.’ He made him work in every department of the business and work his way up.”

He apparently learned his lessons well. By 1938, Price had formed a successful subsidiary called Cottage Donuts, which at its peak sold 100,000 dozen doughnuts a day produced at 19 plants across the country.

During World War II he served on the War Productions Board in Washington and administered a national program for the conservation of honey.

After the war, he returned to Lowe and helped it acquire several other food companies. In 1965 he negotiated a merger with Consolidated Foods Corp. and ran the Joe Lowe division for several years before Consolidated became Sara Lee Corp.

After his retirement in the late 1960s, Price “made it his life’s mission to change the way business education is done in the university system,” Vitti said. He was passionate about preserving the entrepreneurial spirit, which he believed was the key to America’s greatness.

In 1979 Price founded the Price Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which is dedicated to enhancing the recognition and development of entrepreneurship.

According to Timothy Jones, president of the Louis & Harold Price Foundation, Price donated more than $15.5 million to entrepreneurship education over the years.

At UCLA, the first beneficiary, the grants have meant courses for graduate students in such areas as venture initiation and small-business management.

In addition to Vitti, Price is survived by his wife of 69 years, Pauline; a daughter, Linda; another granddaughter, Lisa; and five great-grandsons.

His philanthropic interests also centered on providing access to medical care for the needy. His family asks that memorial donations be sent to organizations that he established for this purpose. They are: the Pauline and Harold Price Scholarship Fund, c/o Mitch Orlick, director of development, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, P.O. Box 48750, Room 2416, Los Angeles CA 90048; and Mount Sinai Hospital, c/o Stefanie Steel, 1 Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1049, New York, NY 10029.


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